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Fear of Flying Ch 3 - Things Fall Apart

Disclaimer: See chapter one
Rating: PG-13 for subject matter
Pairing: Nico and Dani
Previous Chapters: Ch 1 - Stepping Into The Darkness ; Ch 2 - Lost But Not Alone
Enjoy!!



Fear of Flying

Ch 3 - Things Fall Apart

By Lattelady

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“As he sank low in the water, a strange hollow voice sounded within him. There’s no way around it. I am a seagull…I must forget this foolishness. I must fly home to the Flock and be content as I am, as a poor limited seagull.” – From Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nico waited until he heard water running in the shower, before he went into his bedroom. He quietly turned the doorknob and entered the adjoining bath. After gathering his hair dryer and brush, he put them on the vanity along with Dani’s purse that he’d brought with him. Thankfully she was still in the shower and he was able to leave undetected. The last thing she needed right now was to be caught in a vulnerable position by a man. Closing the door behind him he picked up the clothes she had tossed on his bed.

Under the bright light in his laundry room off the kitchen, he carefully examined each seam, strap and closure for damage that Dr. Browning and he might have missed earlier. If he found any, the garments would have to be submitted for DNA testing. He discovered they were as intact as they’d appeared to be the night before and put them in the washer.

His cell vibrated, as he was closing the pocket door between the laundry and kitchen. One look at the caller ID made his stomach dip. Was it business as usual or was he finally coming face to face with the one big mistake of his past?

“Sir.”

“Tough week, Nico.” Marshall Pittman’s deep voice was clipped and concise.

“We’ve had better.” Nico leaned against his kitchen counter, wondering what strange power Gabrielle had had that she could have made him contemplate further disloyalty to a man who had once been his commanding officer and had saved his life in combat. He and Marshall were the only surviving members of Seal Team Delta 6.

“King’s surgeon is keeping me apprised of his progress and Donnelly is already working with the physical therapist. They’ll have Terrance in good shape by next season. It’s a damn shame this had to happen now. What’s your read on the rest of the team? Can we take San Francisco on Sunday afternoon without TK?”

“He’s not the whole team...If they can keep their anger focused in the right direction---”

“My God, Careles, you’re sounding like that damn shrink I hired.” Pittman laughed. He never thought he’d see the day when his tough as nails head of security spouted New Age crap.

“Dr. Santino has been helpful. She’s spent as much time with the other players as she has with Terrance, since the shooting.” He decided this was as good a time as any to tell his boss about what had happened the night before. “Sir, there’s been another development. Someone put Rohypnol in the doctor’s mineral water, last night.”

“Roofies,” Pittman ground out the street name for the drug used. “What the hell? Was it another hit on the team or was it personal?”

“I don’t know yet. I’ve got Xeno investigating and will join him when I can get her home.”

“Where is she? You didn’t take her to the hospital did you? That would involve the police. The last thing The Hawks need is more bad publicity.” Marshall Pittman thought of his investment first and then finally the woman who had helped a troubled team make it to the play-offs. “How badly was she hurt?”

Nico clenched his teeth to keep his anger under control. “She’s doing fine. Dani was smart and called me as soon as she began to feel funny. She’s here with me at my place---”

The low rumbling chuckle coming through his cell phone interrupted Careles. “You dark horse, you dark dark horse, somehow I didn’t think a woman like that was your type.” Pittman’s laughter continued. “Hell, I didn’t think you had a type.” It was finally clear why Gabrielle's attorney was talking reconciliation, Nico was banging the therapist.

“No, Sir, you don’t understand. It isn’t like that. I would never…she is part of the team.” The Hawks’ security man had to stop and think. Was his old friend seeing something that he’d refused to acknowledge for months? Sure he knew he desired her but desires were easily ignored. She was also his to protect. But he refused to take that line of self-exploration any further, even if it did answer a lot of questions; even if it explained why he’d gone to Santino about Gabrielle; why he’d been able to finally see that the restless Mrs. Pittman was using him. Nico shook his head to put a lock on the door of thoughts Marshall had unwittingly opened. Careles was intelligent and had street smarts. He didn’t need a therapist to tell him that using another person wasn’t a definition of love. Or that being asked to go against everything he believed wasn’t something one did to someone they cared about. Only one small doubt lingered: what had caused the painful hit directly to his chest when he’d knocked on Dani’s door and discovered a disheveled Matt Donnelly coming down her stairs.

“Nico, you still with me?” Pittman questioned with a smirk on his face. He’d finally found a vulnerability in his long time friend. Hopefully he’d never need to use it.

“Yes, Sir.” Nico forced himself into the present. “About Dr. D. There are times when we work as a team. You’ve hired me to protect the physical wellbeing of your people and she protects them mentally. In the course of a business day we’ve found that the two overlap. At the moment TK is a prime example. It is necessary for me to be sure he trusts his surroundings, while she has to make him trust what is going on inside of his head.” As Careles said the words he made himself believe them. Finding Donnelly and Santino in a potentially compromising position had simply caught him by surprise.

“You’re colleagues, sounds good,” Pittman fought to stifle a chuckle. He wasn’t sure if Nico was trying to convince himself or if his man really believed it. Either way it was a load of bullshit. His head of security had the hots for the good doctor. No matter how it played out, it was a piece of knowledge Marshall stored away for the future.

“Yes, when you hired her she became a team asset.”

“All right then. You need to handle this Roofies incident with your usual discretion, as you would with any other team asset.”

“I’ll make sure the press doesn’t get wind of it.” Nico ran his hand through his hair. He didn’t add that if it were in Dani’s best interest, the authorities would be brought in. He knew enough people to keep the story contained if that should happen.

Marshall wasn’t quite done. “One other thing…the information you gathered on Gabrielle, are you positive that was all there was to find?”

“Yes, Sir.” Here it comes, Careles thought. Here is when he asks me for the identity of the man his wife had had an affair with. Here is where I get fired or worse.

“Hmmm…it’s something I’ve known about for years.” Pittman was nobody’s fool. It was time to change the game. He’d been aware that Juliette might not be his and had discreetly had a DNA test run not long after her birth. The affair between Gabrielle and Nico had been over long ago but their feelings had lingered. Keeping them apart but forcing them into the occasional social situation had been a just and long lasting punishment, as long as they both remained loyal to him. It was apparent that his old friend retained those loyalties. His wife, on the other hand, would have to be brought back under his control or let go. A divorce would be messy but given the prenuptial agreement she’d signed it wouldn’t be as costly as it could have been if Careles had joined forces with her. Nico had set up his accounts in the Caymans and often handled transactions for him. It was the only time Marshall used his friend’s law degree, except for tasking the man to run his security department on the right side of legal even if it meant skating very close to the line on occasion.

A few minutes later Nico sipped a double espresso and stared at the rain hitting the bank of windows that made up one wall of his loft. He could make out his reflection in the glass if he squinted hard enough. His concept of the world had been turned upside down in the last week. He’d discovered that a woman who he had thought he’d loved and who he’d believed loved him was shallow and manipulative. It was time to let go of something that was nothing more than a memory. The idea that Pittman had known all alone didn’t surprise him much. The man was smart and very little slipped past him. The form of punishment he’d chosen had an elegance that was very much Marshall’s style. Nico and Gabrielle had wronged him and in return he had made them suffer. Now it was time to move on with his life.

The woman who was in his shower was a different matter all together. He knew how to keep her at arms length until this odd passion worked its way out of his system, because she deserved someone decent. Again he refused to take that thought to its obvious conclusion. Instead he examined the precaution that he’d already put in place. He’d called in a favor and made sure Matt Donnelly’s girlfriend was offered a more lucrative position that necessitated her move to San Francisco. Time would tell if it was enough.

Nico had to remain strong for a few more hours, until he could get Dani out of his home. He stared into the dark brew in his cup as if it was the soul he’d lost years ago. He told himself that all he could ever feel for her was desire. An affair with Dr. D. would only hurt her as he had Gabrielle and his ex-wife before her. A man without a soul flew best alone.
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Dani leaned against the black and white marble top of the large double sink vanity and stared at her reflection in the mirror. She was wearing nothing but a dark blue towel wrapped around her and tucked in above her left breast. Her clean face was blotchy from crying and her eyes were large and red with dark smudges under them. She was tired from the emotional storm that she’d allowed free rein in the shower but it had been necessary.

It was evident Nico had done more than gather her clothes from the bedroom. A hair drier; a round brush with an occasional dark, silver tipped, strand of hair mixed in the bristles; and her purse were sitting beside the unused sink on the left. She wanted to be angry with him for invading her privacy but what was the use? Privacy between the two of them had flown out the window sometime the previous night or maybe it was months earlier. This morning the question was too dangerous to her peace of mind to contemplate.

There was a strange feeling of intimacy created by using his brush and dryer when her hair smelled of his spiced lime shampoo. She’d caught that scent on the pillow she’d been sleeping on and remembered it from waking up with her head on his shoulder as he drove her home from the helicopter ride from Atlantic City. Now it surrounded her and made her feel…safe?

It wasn’t until she was unplugging the dryer that she noticed the bruises on her right upper arm. They looked like finger marks. There were five of them in all. She knew with certainty that they hadn’t been there when she’d dressed to go out and couldn’t remember doing anything that might have caused them. Panic licked at the edges of her mind while she ripped off her towel and carefully examined every inch of her body. But her skin was clear except along the bicep of one arm. She could feel her breathing increase, becoming quick and short, leaning over she flipped her hair over her face and held it crushed against her nose.

“Breathe, just breathe,” she whispered to herself, letting the light fragrance of spiced lime remind her that she wasn’t alone.

Nico’s closet took her by surprise. It was a large square room with built-ins on every wall; there were double hangs with suit jackets and sport coats, another with shirts and a tie rack. A few pairs of shoes were neatly put away on slanted shoe racks that reached higher than her head, leaving most of the racks empty. Everywhere she looked she was impressed with the lack of clutter. Sweaters were folded in glass-covered shelves above a large built-in double-handled dresser.

It was the unexpected sight of two framed photos on the top of the dresser that made her forget about searching the long hanging items for a robe and step closer. One was of a of group of eight dirty, exhausted men, mud-smeared and serious. Each of them had weeds and vines hanging off their clothes and hats until they were almost unrecognizable but the large automatic rifles they carried told a story of their own. The second was of three men dressed in camouflage with heavy green and black streaks hiding their skin. Again their hats and shoulders were covered with leaves and long vines. They looked dark, dangerous and very pleased with themselves. Each held a long sleek rifle in the air. The picture practically shouted that they had been victorious. The Seal sniper in the middle was a much younger Nico Careles.

“He looks like he fell out of the pages of a well-armed version of Lord of The Flies,” Dani gasped. “He really is as deadly as he appears.” But even as she said the words she shook her head. “Just because a man has a skill, doesn’t mean he uses it.” She turned her back on the dresser and her invasion of Nico’s privacy, remembering the day he’d came to her office, seeking professional help for himself.

She’d asked, “Did you kill someone.”

He’d replied, “Recently? No.”


As a therapist she knew that a person’s past had an impact on what he was today but the choices he made directed that impact. She didn’t believe that a deadly Navy Seal was all there was to Nico, no matter how hard he tried to pretend otherwise.

Looking up, she caught her reflection in a large oval mirror hanging on the back of the closet door and realized she was standing naked surrounded by his black suits, jackets, coats and shirts. She closed her eyes at how pale her skin looked against a dark background of his clothes and personal possessions.

Intimacy brushed against her body as if his sure patient hands were moving over her. It made her shake with desire. “No,” she denied the impact. “It’s the drug in my system.” With careful steady movements she reached for the navy terrycloth robe hanging to her right and slipped into it. As the material settled on her shoulders she refused to acknowledge the tingling in her stomach.

Dani raised her chin and walked carefully out of the closet and into the bathroom. She made one quick stop to hang up her towel and then she kept on moving, until she was safely in his bedroom. She stood and rolled the overlong sleeves that dangled past her fingers, trying to keep her eyes on what she was doing and not let her curiosity get the better of her. There were two tall bookshelves opposite the foot of the bed. A few titles popped out: Book Of Five Rings, The Tao, in two different translations, The Art of War, and The Divine Comedy, were to be expected but she also saw the works of William Blake, numerous leather-bound plays by Shakespeare and a large, well read copy of Fung Shui Your Life. The last item explained a lot about the rooms she’d seen so far and the man she was beginning to know; the lack of clutter in his home and his life, the oval mirror and its placement, the pale blue walls in the bath and bedroom, the large queen size bed with sloping wood head and footboard, and a trailing plant on the sharp corner of the mission style nightstand.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I was beginning to think you drowned.” Nico looked up from making more espresso as Dani came out of the bedroom. “Are you doing all right?” Stupid question Careles, he thought. Of course she isn’t all right, she’s still unsure if she was molested last night.

“That’s some bathroom and closet you have there.” She tried to establish a light note, anything so she wouldn’t have to think or talk about herself anymore. “Gotta say I’m impressed.”

She was deflecting. Nico could read it on her face. He decided to let her have the space she needed for a while. Too much had happened in the last week and he had to add more pressure. There were hard questions that needed to be asked. They weren’t going anywhere for at least another six hours, he had time to let her regroup. “Section 27-2066 of the Housing Code of the City of New York requires indoor plumbing. And despite the fact that NYC Building Code doesn’t require a bedroom closet, I gather the former owner was a clothes horse.” He watched her carefully and when she looked confused, explained, “They came with the place, exactly as they are now.”

“Oh,” she nodded unsure where to go from there.

“Dani, did something happen in the shower?”

“No…not really…I…”

“Dr. Santino, you’re a poor liar.”

“I...discovered some bruises while I was drying my hair.” She wrapped her arms around her body to keep from shivering.

“Dani?” He put both shots of espresso on the top of the machine to keep them warm and was at her side in a few quick strides. “What did you find, Dani?”

“I have fingerprints on my right arm but that’s it, nothing else anywhere.” All the strength she’d been feeling moments earlier slipped away and left her jittery and unsure.

“Show me,” he demanded.

“Why?”

“Because they could be from me and damnit because I need to see them.”

She pulled up the sleeve on her bruised arm but she’d put too much material into the cuffs when she’d rolled them. It would only go as far as her elbow. With a sigh she closed her eyes, flipped the left lapel over until it covered her chest and part of her opposite shoulder and then let the robe slide down her right arm.

“I need to try something.” Nico moved in front of her and wrapped his right arm around her until his hand rested on her bare skin. “You’re all right,” he whispered as he felt her stiffen.

“You...uh...startled me.” She looked up surprised. He was so close that her hair caught in the scruff on his chin.

“I won’t hurt you.” Looking down he could count the freckles sprinkled across her nose and see that her eyes weren’t red simply from being drugged. She’d been crying and by the looks of it crying hard. “Trust me just a bit longer. I want to see if I caused those bruises.”

“I do trust you, Nico. Don’t you know that by now?” She relaxed against him as he guided her head against his chest and gently held her bruised arm. His fingers and thumb were a perfect match for the marks on her bicep.

“Damn that Danny Martello!” his voice was low and deep and cracked like a rifle shot. “He tried to stop us as we were leaving Solstice. I was keeping you steady like this and had to exert extra pressure so I could cover your face with my other hand. I’m sorry. This is one more thing to make you doubt what happened.” He stepped back and set her free.

“There’s nothing to be sorry for. You got me out of that club and protected my identity while you were doing it. Thank you.” She shivered as he slid the dark terry cloth back over her shoulder and pulled the lapels tightly closed, high around her neck. “Please…I don’t want to talk about last night anymore.”

“We have to. I need to know exactly what happened.” He hated doing this to her.

“But I don’t remember anything.” She argued.

“I need you to try and you need it too.”

“You’re right. I know you are.” She studied the buttons on his shirt, her hands clasped in front of her, the dark granite kitchen counter behind Nico with its odd flashes of gray and blue, anything so she wouldn’t have to meet his penetrating gaze. “The doubts are frightening but there is safety in not-knowing for sure.”

“You don’t need to hide in memory loss to feel safe. Your back-up is here now.” He was going to find out the truth for her, so she didn’t have to rely on negative evidence. Somewhere, not very far away, there was a man or men who knew exactly what had happened and he was determined to find them, even if he had to financially destroy Club Solstice to pick up the trail.

Ch 4 - The Center Cannot Hold

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Quotes

The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears


The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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